Dealing with Anger
Monday, December 21, 2015
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"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
—Ephesians 4:26 (NIV)
Ephesians 4:26 says, "In your anger do not sin" (NIV). If you're like me, you recognize the wisdom of this injunction from your own experience. You can remember times, maybe as recent as this morning, when your anger motivated you to do or say something wrong. Yes, you were angry and you did sin. Perhaps in your anger you did or said something that was hurtful to another person, maybe someone you love deeply, like a spouse or a child. So, when you read, "In your anger do not sin," your soul cries out, "Yes. That's fine. But how? How can I avoid sin when I'm angry?"
One answer to this question can be found in the second half of Ephesians 4:26: "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry" (NIV). This piece of advice, which is similar to wisdom found among Greek philosophers as well as some ancient Jewish groups, makes the point that anger should not be stored up. When we hang on tightly to anger, it easily turns to bitterness or vengefulness. Hoarded anger makes us more apt to sin. So, one way or another, our feelings of anger need to be dissipated.
How does this happen? I know from personal experience some things that don't work. Denial and pretending don't work. Yelling and screaming don't work. What does seem to work, at least at the beginning, is acknowledgement of anger. If we can say to ourselves, "I am really angry about this. I want to punch that guy in the nose," this puts our inner selves on the table for examination. Openness allows us to think about our anger rather than letting it have hidden power over us. It enables us to begin to deal with our anger rather than trying to ignore it and letting it lead us into sin.
Perhaps more importantly, acknowledging our anger allows us to share it with God. The Psalms are filled with honest expressions of deep emotions, even anger directed at the Lord himself. These ancient poems and hymns encourage us to share with God what's really going on in our hearts. Thus, when you're feeling angry, tell God about it. Be honest. Offering your anger to the Lord is a first step to letting go of it so it doesn't lead you into sin.
Mark Roberts is the Executive Director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Seminary. He writes digital daily devotions at Life for Leaders. This article is adapted with permission from his original article "How Can I Avoid Sin When I Am Angry?" at TheHighCalling.org. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures quoted are taken from the New Living Translation.
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